3 Characteristics of a Great Employee

December 6, 2021

Categories: Work

If you work at a business, chances are good you have had the opportunity to hire someone for a job. And, if you’ve worked at a business long enough, you probably also have had the unfortunate experience of hiring someone who was terrible and a bad fit. Hiring mistakes lead to a whole host of negative consequences (e.g., financial losses, relational problems, bad morale, etc.). How can we make sure we make a good decision when hiring an employee?

The Mistake of Prioritizing Technical Skills

What do you look for when you hire an employee? Most people prioritize technical skills. Does the person have the experience and expertise necessary to succeed at this job? Hiring for technical skills seems to make sense, but it is actually a big mistake. The reason is that technical skills can be taught on the job. But how the person behaves—their character—is a lot more ingrained. It is difficult (if not impossible) to change.

3 Key Characteristics of a Great Employee

Business consultant Patrick Lencioni says there are 3 key characteristics of a great employee and team player. They don’t have to do with technical skills. Instead, they focus on the character strengths necessary to be an awesome worker and team player. Here they are:

  1. Humble. Great employees have a high level of humility. Humility involves being other-oriented rather than self-focused. Humble employees aren’t run by their ego. They can take a step back, admit mistakes, and tend to the needs of others. Humble employees also have an accurate view of themselves and their abilities. They don’t think of themselves too highly, but they also don’t have an overly-low view of themselves. They are accurate in their self-assessment.
  2. Hungry. Great employees are hungry. They have a strong work ethic and are motivated to succeed. They go the extra mile for their job. They aren’t lazy or lackadaisical. Instead, they push the pedal to the floor and make things happen. Hungry employees aren’t workaholics—it’s important to have a work-life balance. But they definitely give a high level of effort on a daily basis.
  3. Smart. Great employees are smart. By smart, I’m not just focused on intelligence. In most cases, you don’t need to be a Brainiac to succeed at your job. However, you do have to have a high level of emotional intelligence. You have to be able to understand social situations, understand and deal with emotions, and navigate interpersonal relationships with grace and empathy.


Think about the best employee that you work with. Are they humble, hungry, and smart? Now think about an employee that is struggling. Which of the three characteristics (i.e., humble, hungry, smart) are they missing? When you run your next hire, be on the lookout for these three character traits.


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